Tag Archives: Commentary on Song of Solomon 8:6

Rise Up, My Love (271): Poison Apples

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Jealousy is cruel as the grave…” This verse stopped me for months when I was originally studying the Song of Songs (now fifteen years ago). My husband and I had just come and gone on our thirtieth wedding anniversary celebration, and even though we’d  enjoyed a really happy vacation together, from the deepest part of me I felt the heat of this verse. There is nothing, nothing, in our relationship that has come close to causing as much pain and anger as jealousy.  (Again, we’re now just about to celebrate our 45th anniversary, and we have a much better relationship, but I could still experience jealousy in a flash if provoked!)

What does it mean to be jealous? Jealousy is “fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position…vigilant in guarding something…intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity.”* Are you jealous of your spouse? All of those above definitions fit me painfully well. I didn’t know I had a jealous bone in my body until the night my husband-to-be first kissed me, but from that night to this, I have been amazingly jealous of his affection. I had (erroneously) thought that I would never kiss anyone but my husband, and I hoped he would also save himself completely for me.

My beloved husband-to-be totally disagreed with such a policy and kissed me without permission one night as we were saying goodbye for yet another semester of college where we would be separated for months. He had drifted away from the Lord at the time, and we had a very tenuous, unstable relationship. As soon as he left, I sat down and cried. I wasn’t at all sure this was the guy I wanted to marry! I knew Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” I’d even composed a song about it. I knew I could never marry anyone unless he was a Christian who not only “believed” but had truly surrendered his life to Christ. I also cried because I felt violated. How dare he rob me of my “purity?” (Note: Kissing is not fornication; the fact that I didn’t want to kiss anybody but my husband was my choice, but it  was going beyond what the Bible teaches.)

Looking back, I realize that I was being “over righteous,” which is what Solomon warns against in Ecclesiastes 7:16, but I didn’t understand the sin of my own pride, which led to great heartache, just as predicted: “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” I cried because I felt like he didn’t respect my boundaries and needs, and I felt like he didn’t really love me. And, I cried because something deep inside me said, “This is the guy you’re going to marry.” I don’t know where that came from, but I do know that on the heels of that sense came the thought, “and he doesn’t care one bit about maintaining purity…his or yours.”

Looking back, I know the last part was a Satanic deception, but I fell for it. I cried, but I became angry and then extremely jealous of his affection. When he casually wrote a few weeks later saying he and his roommate had taken in another roommate who was female, I thought the worst and decided to get revenge. I fell into Satan’s trap and thought, “I’m going to marry this guy, and he’s totally trashing himself.” (Which, by the way, was not true, but you know how Satan loves to deceive us!) I failed to heed Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” I failed to heed Romans 12:19, which teaches clearly, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Why? Because only God can mete out vengeance and still retain his righteousness… because only God is perfectly just and holy.

For humans, vengeance is a beautiful, poison apple that—if eaten—will plunge the victim into a sleep of death. In fact, for twenty-five years I felt like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, living a death, awaiting true love’s first kiss to undo the damage. Did Prince Charming ever come to my rescue? Yes, but I learned that the real Prince Charming is Christ. He is the one whose kiss breathes life into our withered souls. He is the jealous God who desires and demands our total allegiance, and he is the only one we can ultimately trust to be unswervingly faithful to us. If we truly fulfill the first command, and love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it takes the poison out of experiencing the pain of human frailty and imperfect fidelity.

For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).

*The American Heritage Dictionary, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992), 964.

Rise Up, My Love (270): Strong As Death

Song of Solomon 8:6 “…for love is strong as death…” The word for strong is ’az meaning “an irresistible assailant” or “an immovable defender.”* It is used in Judges 14:18 to refer to superlative strength: “What is stronger than a lion?” In Numbers 13:28 ’az is used to describe the giants in the Kadesh Barnea who were so fearsome that the children of Israel refused to enter the Promised Land.

Love has a strength that is as irresistible and unconquerable as death. Notice that in this text, love and death are not being put in contest with each other, as if to test which is greater. It is a comparative rather than a superlative statement. Love is being likened to death. How is love like death? In its universal strength and power. Just as death is a universal experience that cannot be denied, resisted, or subdued, so is love. Death comes to all, and God—who is love—comes to all, showering mankind with new mercies every morning…the warmth of sunshine and the blessings of rain…to begin a list that has no end.The fear of death is a universal experience, and we have inborn instincts to avoid its pain. The desire for love is also universally felt, and we all have inborn drives to acquire its pleasure. Unfortunately, we often fail to understand how to avoid the pain and acquire the pleasure! The answer really has something to do with that “God-sized hole” in the human heart that only God can truly fill, first described by St. Augustine over 1700 years ago.

World around, people stand in awe of the power of love and death. Of course, they mostly seek love and shun death, but thinking people acknowledge the existence of both. People may deny death…for a while, but eventually all men come face to face with death, and often those who have tried to deny it find death before those who acknowledge and avoid it! People may deny love…for a while. But, ultimately, all men will come face to face with Love…if not in this life, then in the next, because we are told that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Oh that men would taste and see that the Lord is good during their tenure here on this earth!

“Love is strong as death.” This is an amazing statement when you stop to think about it, because it doesn’t have any qualifiers. The Scripture doesn’t say “true love,” or “the best love,” or even “sometimes love.” It is simply saying that real love, by definition, is invincible and cannot be conquered or put off, any more than death can be.In our day and age of convenience friendships and throwaway relationships, this definition should be inscribed on our foreheads at birth…and carved deeply into the heart of every bride and groom. When we are tempted to give up on someone we think we love, remember that real love never stops pursuing any more than death gives up pursuit. When our hearts would fail us, we must align our heads with the Scripture and make our actions conform to God’s truth.

Consider the definition of love given in I Corinthians 13. True love behaves in the most wonderful ways! Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or brag. It is not proud or inappropriate. It is not self-seeking or easily angered. It thinks no evil and does not celebrate evil. Rather, it celebrates the truth. It bears all things, believes everything, and is unceasingly hopeful. It endures everything and never gives up or fails.

That is love. And, it is strong as death. I wonder how many of us understand or know how to love. My best attempts at loving others fall dismally short of this definition. No wonder disillusioned unbelievers sometimes think that real love doesn’t exist. Outside of God’s love, there is no such experience of pure love. As C.S. Lewis expressed it: “When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been…within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.”When we experience real love, we experience God, and when we see the face of love, we are looking into the eyes of God! My love, like unrefined gold, is full of impurities. Oh, I may feel that I have great love for others, but when I examine my ability to love my husband…the one on earth who deserves my purest love…I find that I fail in every area. I am not always patient. I am not always kind. I am not always humble. I do want my way sometimes (many times!) and become very frustrated and angry when I feel that my needs are being ignored. I suspect my husband’s motives sometimes. I certainly don’t bear all things and always believe the best. I can remember a time when I wished one of us would just drop dead, and I didn’t care whom. My husband even had to endure hearing me verbalize such miserable unlove!

Here we are approaching our forty-fifth anniversary, and I still fail at times! Almost fifty years of trying to learn how to love, and I still don’t have it down pat. Will I ever get it right?? Despite our greatest desires and best intentions, it appears that we will continue to struggle to love better until the day we see Jesus face to face and are conformed to his image.

In the meantime, every time we feel the power of true love—however transitory it might be—we know that we have experienced God. This is part of the eternal life that all humans crave with every cell in their bodies, and because of this, we will struggle on, continuing to seek love just as we struggle on continuing to shun death. Love is indeed “strong as death.”

* G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 170.

Rise Up, My Love (268): Sealed and Safe

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm:” What is a seal? It is something that stands as a visible confirmation of a finished transaction. In a way, it is a contract. It bears the impress and often the image of the contractor. Here are some enlightening points gleaned from Tenny’s invaluable Biblical encyclopedias:
* “The earliest method, as far as one knows, to distinguish a person’s property was by use of the seal; this kind of seal has been found in Neolithic settlements in Mesopotamia.”
* “The earliest seal developed from an amulet and therefore maintained some of the amulet’s magical power. The seal would deter anyone from breaking open the sealed object for fear of the evil that might overtake him.”
* “Though the principal use of seals was for signing documents, they were also used to make safe for shipment jars containing valuable papers or goods.”
* “The unbroken seal was evidence that the merchandise was intact upon arrival” (1).

Wow! Let’s consider Tenny’s commentary in spiritual terms. In 2 Corinthians 1:22 we are told that God “hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” In Ephesians 1:14 and 4:30 we are told that the Holy Spirit himself is the seal…that we have been sealed by “the Holy Spirit of promise” until “the day of redemption.” God is the contractor; he has contracted us to himself in love for our redemption, and he has sealed us with his Holy Spirit of Promise…which bears the impress and image of our invisible Creator, revealing his nature to us and guarding us until the day of our complete redemption, payable upon our death!   Notice also that the seals possessed some assumed “magical” powers which would deter tampering lest evil overtake the one who opened the seal. God’s power is not “magical;” it is beyond magic and imagining…God is all-powerful—omnipotent! It is absolutely correct that every man should fear to tamper with one of God’s elect children…to attempt to “open” or defile his bride! Consider the awesomeness of the judgment that will befall you should you become entangled with sin yourself or attempt to ensnare another believer in a web of sexual immorality or any type of sin. Woe to us for even allowing our minds to wander!

Yet, from time to time we are tempted, and then, with the songwriter of “Come Thou Fount,” our hearts cry out: “Prone to wander—Lord, I feel it—prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart—O take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.” “Set me (the Lord Jesus) as a seal upon thine heart.” We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. All we have to do is open the eyes of our hearts and see the seal that is there. Make the spiritual reality more real than the physical reality.

No wonder the Israelites used to carry Scripture portions on their foreheads and their arms. They were making God’s commands literal realities. Can we do less? We do not typically walk around with Bible verses on us (although I always keep a Bible in my purse), but we can keep our love for Jesus as a seal upon our hearts by memorizing and meditating on his Word. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Perhaps Solomon’s father, the man “after God’s own heart,” modeled a worthy example of how to set the living Word as a seal upon our hearts in Psalm 119:11: “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”   As a last point of spiritual parallelism, note that the seals were used to make jars safe for shipment, and an unbroken seal signified that the contents of the jar had arrived intact. What a beautiful picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives! Not only is he our seal, but he is also the one who provides for our safe conduct from this world to the next, serving as guide (John 16:13), teacher (John 14:26), and comforter along the way (John 15:26), bearing us up on eagles’ wings to bring us safely to the Father (Exodus 19:4)!   Are you familiar with the way eagles teach their young to fly? Eagles build their eyries (nests) very high in the tops of tall trees near water or on high cliffs in the mountains. When the parent perceives that the eaglet is prepared to fly, he will push the fledgling out of the nest, immediately diving beneath him as the young bird flaps and struggles to fly. If the eaglet is unable on the first attempt to learn to use its wings to support itself and fly, the parent will literally soar up underneath his fledgling, bearing it up on his own wings so that the young eagle doesn’t dash itself to pieces on the rocks below. In the same way, our faithful, loving Holy Spirit bears us up on the wings of his love as we struggle to learn how to fly spiritually through this world.

Oh, Lord, thank you for the wonderful seal you have given us in the person of your Holy Spirit! Thank you for his ministry in our lives! Thank you that he bears us up on eagle wings to bring us safely home to heaven and you!

(1) Merrill C. Tenny, ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corp., 1977), Vol.5, 322.

Rise Up, My Love (267): Faithful Husbands and Faithful Wives

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Set me as a seal upon thine heart…” This seems to be clearly a continuation of the bridegroom’s thoughts, and yet, I’ve read wonderful sermons on this verse as if it is the wife desiring her husband’s constancy. On the human level, probably every woman on earth can identify with and echo such a heart cry for her husband to love only her among all women… with all his heart and strength…until death parts them.

But, in The Song of Solomon, which also teaches the mysteries of Christ and the church, it is not the wife making this heartfelt supplication; it is the husband. Why? Because, from Scripture we know that Christ is perfectly immutable in his love for his bride! His heart and arm are already sealed! In Isaiah 49:16, the Lord declares: “I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” We are not only as a seal on his heart, we are carved into his hands!

Those of us who have dived into the depths of Jesus’ love and found we could not begin to find the bottom or edges of it, may cry out for his arm to help us, but we cannot doubt his love. If your circumstances are so painful, or if you have strayed so far away, that you find yourself doubting His love, meditate on Romans 8:35-39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (By the way, beloved, we are included in that “any other creature.” No one can pluck us out of our Father’s hand [John 10:29]…nor can we jump out ourselves. We cannot even separate ourselves from the love and power of God!) His love is unfathomable and incomprehensible!

Oh Lord, draw us nearer; hold us closer; hide us deeper; teach us to rest more completely… Here is a tiny poem by an anonymous author that is such a comfort: “The stars may shine for a million years, for a million years and a day, But Christ and I shall live and love when the stars have passed away!”   No, we do not need to cry out to Jesus to set us as a seal upon his heart and arm. Our hearts may cry out for such faithfulness in our husbands…and oh, that husbands could be so like Christ that we would have no cause to doubt their love! I believe that it is only a rare and deeply twisted woman who would ever leave her husband if he loved her with steadfast faithfulness… because I truly believe that a woman’s deepest need is for the security and comfort of an unfailing, godly love as described in I Corinthians 13.

However, let’s go on to consider what the passage is primarily teaching. This verse records the cry of Jesus (and husbands) for their wives to be faithful!! It is a sad commentary on women indeed to have penned into the eternal Scriptures King Solomon’s lament, “One man among a thousand have I found: but a woman among all those have I not found” (Ecclesiastes 7:28). What was he looking for? Uprightness? Faithfulness? I’m not sure.

I’ve been tempted to think that he couldn’t find one woman in a thousand who was truly faithful and upright with him because he had a thousand women instead of only one. If he’d had only one wife (which is what God specifically commanded for kings [and is his intention for all of us from the beginning of creation]), perhaps she would have been loyal to him! …or is that just my feminine prejudice coming out?

Sadly, my King Jesus is totally loyal and upright with me, and I have failed him repeatedly, so doubtless we as a group of women would still struggle to be faithful even if our husbands were perfect. But, let’s consider the plea and be inspired to rally to the greatness of loyalty to our husbands!